The title should actually read The Death of Two Libraries, but the actual title is more dramatic. For the last two years I have been at the University of Michigan in the Schools of Social Work (SSW) and Public Health (SPH) and this week the library at each school is closing. SPH library closure is quite sudden and is because the school received stimulus funds for lab space. I am not too torn up about it because that library was kind of a hole anyway; although it was a quiet, if gloomy place to study.
I've known about the SSW library closure since the end of summer and as I work at the circulation desk, all semester I have been answering the question, why is the library closing? My answers have varied from the real reasons like: to reduce duplication of services, economic downturn, accese to online resources, the new head of libraries is an economist, blah, blah blah to other more Jessica-like responses like, we hate books. Regardless of the reasons I am particularly saddened by the SSW library closure.
It is such a nice space (please see pictures below). It is one of the most naturally lighted libraries I have ever been in and that is saying something considering it is located in the basement. There is just something special about having a space where one can quietly sit and be physically surrounded by millions of words. While one can perhaps browse for something on the internet more easily than a library, I love to browse actual library shelves. One of the first things I do when I enter someone's house or apartment is browse their bookshelves. Books can tell you so much about a person while also leaving you wanting to know more about them. Why do they have this book? How many times have they read it? Do they have a favorite.
Didn't the ability to write down our thoughts and keep physical records set humans apart from other species and is a criterion for civilization? Now when someone enters what will then be the space of the former SSW library they will see some computers and perhaps a student lounge. What they won't see are decades of work of social pioneers and theorists that have worked to improve the world as they saw it. They may see little that helps them understand social work.
I am sad about these libraries for all the reasons I have mentioned, but especially because the SSW library has been my like a second home. It was the first and will be the last place I worked in Michigan. So when I walk out the doors today for the last time I am not just leaving a job, I am a leaving a home and a family.
Look at the public art and great lighting!